Considering the circumstances, “I Woke Up Like This” is a pretty perfect series finale for Selfie, a half-hour that marks the progress of its main characters on their journeys of personal growth, yet also acts as an important turning point in both their lives. It’s easy to see how well this story would operate as a mid-season finale; surprisingly, the same material works even better as the last episode of the show, turning the lighthearted, slapstick-y material in the opening scenes and re-purposing them as important testaments to the internal struggles of personal growth that came to define this promising, unfortunately short-lived series.
The moment when “I Woke Up Like This” turns from action to reflection is obvious, and striking: after finding out her high school nemesis stole her story for her book, Eliza flips out, trying to express her frustrations with Corynn, the girl who bullied her all throughout middle school, then stole those tales and made them the basis of her cookbook/life story/look-how-pretty-and-rich-I-am story. That scene in particular is classic Selfie slapstick, all fast-paced Eliza dialogue combined with the physical comedy of her sprinting away from a security guard.
However, that behavior becomes much more powerful in the next scene; when Henry steps outside and tries to make a joke about the situation, Eliza’s nearly in tears. I can’t say enough about Gillan’s performance here; at times, Selfie‘s required her to run the gauntlet from superficial idiot to deep, flawed human being – and she really, really nails the latter, especially while she’s detailing to Henry how hard it is to watch someone steal the identity she was so ashamed of growing up, setting her on the course to become the superficial, difficult person she was in the pilot episode (and still can be, when she’s shouting things like “New Instagram baby!”).
And in a moment when she’s looking for a new role model in her life, she makes an important realization; she’s become her own role model, someone 13-year old her can look at, and be proud. She’s finally found ways to express herself – and more importantly, move beyond the silly popularity dramatics that defined her from that middle school slumber party (an Exclusive VIP one, no less), to the moment in the pilot when she decides she wants to be something more. That person doesn’t need to fake an interesting history or be pretentious and speak horrible, overwrought French all the time (like Corynn); she’s beautiful, successful – and most importantly, honest with who she is, willing to recognize flaws in herself in a way those like Corynn will never be able to.
After she expresses all of this to Henry, “I Woke Up Like This” goes from being a pretty average episode of TV into something special, something more reflective. In the same scene, it’s revealed that Henry’s skateboarding skills are fake, something he made up as an adult to sound cool (and subsequently, to feel like a role model to Charmonique’s delicate son), suddenly turning a convenient parallel to Eliza into a direct mirror, two people stuck clinging to old, fake definitions of themselves in fear of the pain and failures that await the true selves they’ve been hiding from the world. For Henry, it manifests the moment he’s supposed to drop in at the skate park; he literally freezes, turning the mental into physical in one wonderfully-composed moment.
In that moment, the entire series of Selfie comes together; in the end, the show was about overcoming fear, about pushing past the deep-seeded problems that silently define us, and reach to become something more as human beings, in an age that almost encourages us to lie and present a very specific, sanitized version of ourselves. And when did Eliza and Henry finally begin to realize what was wrong in their lives? When they reached out to another human being and became honest, bringing voice and action to the person in their head screaming for more out of life; more family, more love, more self-respect, more happiness. All of Selfie was the first step of a journey of self-definition, a journey that comes with many fits, stumbles, bad decisions, and moments of indecisiveness; and in the final moments of Selfie, it reminds us all how easy it is to look beyond those short-term failures and see the long-term potential of it all.
That enlightened positivity comes through in the show’s final two sequences, two scenes that could very easily feel tacked on to give some closure to the show, yet come across as heartfelt farewells to two people finally… well, unlocking a chakra within themselves, to borrow a Hindu ideal. By removing the element of fear, Eliza and Henry are finally able to access (to again borrow from Buddhist beliefs) their Vishuddha, which is representative of growth through expression – in other words, relaying a knowledge one hid themselves from before. For Eliza, it was realizing her childhood not only inspired her, but could inspire others – and for Henry (in the show’s most beautiful moment), it was the realization of his feelings for Eliza, and how important she was in his journey of conquering his own deep-seeded fears and insecurities.
That closing montage… it’s hard to describe how wonderfully it operates both within the episode, and as a rushed capper to the entire series: if I may dip into the Buddhist pool onnnne more time, Henry and Eliza’s journey to growth through each other is an important component of enlightenment, represented by the flower of the heartmind (translated: the union of male and female). There are many tools we can utilize to find our true selves in pursuit of inner peace; and love is but one of them, one that brings Henry and Eliza together, to help each other become better people.
And in the end, that beating heart of Selfie is what made it such a promising series (to call it Enlightened Lite would be an apt description, I think), its recognition that two people can’t be together until they’ve really fixed themselves. It’s an oft-forgotten idea in a genre littered with wishful thinking, under some notion that all it takes is one magic moment to change your life. Change is hard, no matter how well put together or successful someone seems (in fact, that can make self-recognition even harder) – and if anything, Selfie captured that in the context of a romantic comedy, a surprisingly mature observation for a show advertised to be hip, loud and fun. It makes for a beautiful closing moment, with Eliza cutting her hair and putting her glasses back on, and Henry promising to himself that he’ll be ready next time Eliza’s available (now that he has a cast with “NO FEAR” on it); though it may have come dozens of episodes too early for my liking, couldn’t be a more poignant, hopeful ending.
Photo via ABC
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